Surveying History / Surveying & Mapping Education

Charles Mason Receives Memorial Stone at Burial Site

Surveyors Rendezvous pays tribute to famous surveyor and 250th anniversary of Mason-Dixon Line.

August 31, 2013

The Surveyors Rendezvous made sure everyone will remember Charles Mason.

A British surveyor, astronomer and scientist, Mason received a posthumous honor Saturday when the Surveyors Rendezvous dedicated an original boundary stone from the Mason-Dixon Line in his memory at Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia.

Along with partner Jeremiah Dixon, Mason started surveying the famous line that set the boundary for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia 250 years ago in 1763.

But Mason died penniless in 1786, shortly after he had moved his family to the United States. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the burial ground at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. The cemetery does not know the exact location of Mason’s grave, so the stone will serve as a memorial and not an actual tombstone. The stone and plaque sit just off the main pathway that leads to Benjamin Franklin's tombstone.

To honor him, attendees of the Surveyors Rendezvous—along with many others--dedicated the boundary stone in a special ceremony. Edwin Danson, a Royal Chartered Surveyor and author of “Drawing the Line: How Mason and Dixon Surveyed the Most Famous Border in America,” read letters from British Prime Minister David Cameron and Lord Martin Rees, Royal Astronomer.

The ceremony blended religious, historical and cultural elements. The Rev. Katherine Spelman of Christ Church gave the opening invocation, and Richard Leu, Todd Babcock and Chas Langelan gave brief remarks highlighting Mason and his legacy.

Philadelphia singer-songwriters Dan May and Dan Kauffman performed “Sailing to Philadelphia,” which was originally sung by James Taylor and Mark Knopfler. Re-enactors from the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment took part as the Rev. Thomas Kinter recited the “Order for the Burial of the Dead,” and Langelan also led attendees in saying the Surveyor’s Prayer.

Saturday’s ceremony concluded the three-day Surveyors Rendezvous, which also included two other ceremonies honoring the Mason-Dixon Line’s 250th anniversary.

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